Extending Emergency Assistance Would Help New Jersey Residents Avoid Hunger and Homelessness

Testimony from NJPP Senior Policy Analyst Dr. Brittany Holom-Trundy in support of extending the eligibility for Emergency Assistance.

Published on Nov 30, 2023 in Health

Good afternoon Chairwoman Jimenez and members of the Committee. Thank you for this opportunity to provide my testimony on the proposed extension of Emergency Assistance eligibility. My name is Dr. Brittany Holom-Trundy, and I am a senior policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP). NJPP is a non-partisan, non-profit research institution that focuses on policies that can improve the lives of low- and middle-income people, strengthen our state’s economy, and enhance the quality of life in New Jersey.

NJPP strongly supports the eligibility extension proposed in A5549, which continues an exemption from the 12-month lifetime limit of Emergency Assistance — which, notably, is only ⅕ of the lifetime limit for other Work First New Jersey assistance — for residents who are disproportionately harmed by economic and health crises. This includes those who have disabilities, who are full-time caretakers of dependents with disabilities, who are over 60 years old, and who chronically face barriers to employment.

When the original bill passed in 2018, OLS estimated that thousands of families each year benefit from the relief that this exemption provides. As that was a pre-pandemic evaluation, it can be estimated that even more families need this help today. This means that, without this exemption, thousands of New Jerseyans who are most in need and living in the most devastating conditions would face homelessness and hunger; only arbitrarily set time limits would prevent them from receiving help. Because crises are unpredictable, these time limits back families disproportionately at risk into a corner whenever they face disaster: they end up either pressured to decide whether to use some of their very limited assistance time or they are cut off from aid simply for facing greater hardship than allowed.

The state should never let itself slip backward in its support for families, and the law’s sunsetting demands urgent action. While the Work First New Jersey programs need significant reform to avoid these urgent legislative demands in the future, this bridge remains critical for maintaining progress for families until those larger changes are made. We hope that the committee will advance the extension of these crucial services today. Thank you for your time.

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